Friday, May 29, 2009

Baby Sullivan...

Baby Sullivan - 19 weeks

Sara had her 19 week ultrasound this past week. The OB said that the baby looks very healthy and is growing on schedule. So far, the chemo has had no apparent affect on the baby (or the momma).

We had been contemplating on waiting until birth to find out the sex of the baby. I was convinced that we were having a boy, but then lots of people told Sara that they thought she was going to have a girl. We decided to find out this past week and are going to have a BABY GIRL!

It's a good thing that we found out. Now, we (I) have 4 months to mentally prepare that we're having a daughter. We're excited to know and now have to think of some girl names (we had the boy name picked out months ago).

Please pray that the baby would continue to be strong and unaffected through the remaining treatments and that Sara does not go into premature labor (possible risk with chemo).

As a father has compassion on his children, so the Lord has compassion on those who fear him. --Psalms 103:13

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Feeling good...

Sara continues to "defy the odds" with her chemo treatments thus far. I told you in the previous posting that she had made it through the first 4 days without any nausea. Our next expected hurdle was going to be Day 7 - 10. All her blood counts were supposed to be very low during this time period and she was told to expect complete fatigue.

Today is Day 10 and Sara is still her "pre-cancer" self. She thought it might be beneficial to take a nap in the afternoon, but then she was up for an hour in the middle of the night. She quit the nap and has been sleeping a normal schedule.

Thanks for continuing to think about and pray for her. SHE IS DOING GREAT!

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

C1 D3...

C1 D3 is chemo lingo for Cycle 1 - Day 3. Sara's nausea and vomitting SHOULD have developed 24 hours ago. We are happy to share that SHE HAS HAD NO SIDE-EFFECTS from this first dose of chemo. Most of her prescription anti-nausea drugs have been ingested and tomorrow is her last day to take the pills. If we get through 24 more hours, we should be home free for the first cycle. She has been tired, but nothing too bad. A few naps throughout the day and she is good to go. The doctors told us that day 7 - 10 (C1 D7 - 10) is when her blood counts will be at their lowest. She will be anemic (due to low red blood cells) and immunosuppresed (due to low white blood counts). We can deal with tired and are so happy she's not puking her guts out.

On Tuesday morning, we went for the wig fitting. Sara still says that she will probably not wear a wig, but we've been encouraged to get one just in case. Following are a few pictures with the cranial prosthetics...

Wig 1

Wig 2

Wig 3

Wig 4

Wig 5


Feel free to comment on your favorite. The "wig fitter" told us that a stylist can shape the wigs to better fit Sara's face.

One of Sara's best friends family bought a house about 25 miles North of San Antonio a few months ago. They are in the process of relocating permanently to the Texas Hill Country, but offered us their home until we close on ours. Last night was our first night here and it's like we're at a B&B retreat. This house even came stocked with a loving Grandma! Grandma is here for a few more weeks and has insisted on cooking and cleaning for us. Having a place to call home during this time is a huge blessing and we are so thankful to the Sandovals for offering up theirs.

Sara and Grandma Bennie at Casa de Sandoval

We're going to Austin this afternoon and will be there through the weekend. Look for an update early next week. Take care and thank you for praying. Keep it up!

Monday, May 18, 2009

12.5% Complete

Preparations with Nurse Jan

Sara did great today during her initial round of Chemotherapy. Only 7 more rounds to go. She feels great and had no troubles during her session. The "stuff" that chemotherapy drugs do is AMAZING. Read the following excerpt (from wikipedia) and see if you can make sense of it...

The exact mechanism of action of adriamycin is complex and still somewhat unclear, though it is thought to interact with the DNA by intercalation. Adriamycin is known to interact with the DNA by intercalation and inhibition of macromolecular biosynthesis. This inhibits the progression of the enzyme topoisomerase II, which unwinds DNA for transcription. Adriamycin stabilizes the topoisomerase II complex after it has broken the DNA chain for replication, preventing the DNA double helix from being resealed and thereby stopping the process of replication.

Diagram of two Adriamycin molecules intercalating DNA

In Dr. Brad terms... This wonder drug attaches itself to the rapidly dividing (cancer) cells and messes with their genetic makeup, inhibiting the cells from dividing and multiplying, thus stopping them dead in their tracks.

Adriamycin Injection
(HOT chemo patient)

The dreaded side-effects of chemo usually onset within the first 24-48 hours after the injections. Sara received lots of anti-nausea drugs prior to chemo and we brought lots of drugs home to fight off the nausea. Hopefully it works.

After we got home from chemo, Sara had an email from the ladies from our Bible study back in Japan. They wanted to send their encouragement, support, and a picture from afar. These ladies are awesome and some of the many reasons Misawa was such an enjoyable part of our lives. THANK YOU!

Misawa Bible Study Ladies

Sara sends her love. Thanks for checking up on us.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Chemotherapy begins...

Sorry for the delay between updates, but we have been going non-stop since the last posting.

Sara had her port-a-cath installed last Tuesday. She was "partially sedated" during the operation and was fairly coherent about what occurred during surgery. Prior to the operation, one of the nurses asked the doctor if his resident was going to do the procedure. Sara recalled him saying, "this is MY one else is touching her." In our pre-surgery consult, the doctor kept referring to the surgery as a "simple procedure." However, it did not seem too simple to us...

They cut into her jugular vein on the right side of her neck and ran a tube (the catheter) down through her vascular system and ended up placing the end of it in her superior vena cava, just upstream of the heart. Then, they looped the tube over her collarbone and placed the port about 3 inches below it. She has an upside-down V shaped incision where the port is and a 1/4 inch nick on her neck where the tube was inserted into her jugular. Both were sealed up with Dermabond (i.e. superglue for the skin). If she tilts her head to the left, you can see the tube under her skin. The doctor used a flouro table (special X-ray machine) to make sure the catheter was in the correct veins. He said, "the wire used for directing the catheter will probably go into your heart, but I will see it on the x-ray and make sure we get it into the correct location." She wore a lead apron around her stomach during the procedure so the baby did not get "tronned" with x-rays. Sounds simple, right?

Flouro Table

After surgery, we left the hospital and drove to Houston to pick up our new car. We spent a few days with family and found out while we were there that the lady who owned the house we wanted (pictured in the previous post) was CRAZY!!! It's a long story, but we decided that she really does not want to sell that house. So, we withdrew our offer and walked.

After we got back to San Antonio, it was time for more house hunting. We looked at 10 houses on Thursday afternoon and put in one offer. They accepted and we should close the second week of June. The house is smaller that what we had envisioned, but we are excited about it and looking forward to getting settled. House hunting was a learning experience. We learned a lot about NEEDS vs. WANTS. I am usually the one "helping" Sara realize her needs vs. wants, but the tables were turned when it came to houses. I thought we NEEDED the big, brand new, 4 bedroom house with the view (that was "SLIGHTLY" out of our price range), but Sara helped me to realize that we DID NOT NEED it!

Here are some pics of the new place.

Sara will receive her first dose of chemotherapy on Monday morning. We have to be at the hospital tomorrow morning at 8:00am. They will check her vitals and blood counts prior to having the pharmacy "mix her dose." Then, she'll receive some saline for hydration, an anti-nausea drug, and the 2 chemo drugs. We are expecting to be there for approximately 4 hours. After chemo she is going to meet with a Nutritionist and then on Tuesday, she has an appointment for a "cranial prosthesis" fitting. That is the medical term for a wig. She doesn't think that she is going to wear one, but insurance covers it, so just in case...

We're planning on going to the lake house on Wednesday and staying through Memorial Day weekend.

We have received a great and supportive welcome to San Antonio and my new squadron has been great. Sara has met some of the wives and is looking forward to getting plugged in. I will officially start work on June 17.

Sara is feeling great and is not anxious about starting chemo. We ask for your continued prayers for peace and strength. Thank you again!

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. --Phillipians 4:6

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Not yet settled...

Sara and I have spent much of the past week inside the confines of Wilford Hall Medical Center. Is it a bad sign that we are already sick and tired of being at that hospital? We spent about 8 hours there on Tuesday and 6 hours there today, and will be there for another appointment tomorrow.

Sara's results from the tests on Tuesday came back with good news. The chest X-ray looked good (i.e. no cancer in the lungs) and the blood counts came back regular. I asked about the blood tests and what they were looking for specifically. They were testing her alkaline phosphotase levels. Had these been elevated (hyperphosphatasemia), there would have been concern that the cancer had spread to the bones. We're pleased that these tests confirmed that the cancer probably has not spread!

Some of our friends, Hans and Analisa, passed through San Antonio on their way to Mountain Home, Idaho. On Wednesday, we met them at the Riverwalk for dinner and spent the evening catching up. Sara grew up with Analisa and Hans was in my pilot training class. It was great to see them.

Analisa and Sara

The Riverwalk

Most of today was spent in the "info-gathering" mode. We met with the oncologist again this morning to discuss Sara's chemotherapy regimen and what to expect during treatment. Most of the info shared during the session was as expected. She will begin her chemo treatment on May 18. She's getting 4 rounds, spaced at 3 week intervals. The drugs she'll receive are Adriamycin (Doxurubicin) and Cytoxin (Cyclophosphamide). She is going to lose her hair and will be immunosuppressed, due to low blood counts (red and white blood cells and platelets). We were BUMMED to find out that her chemo treatment will continue after she gives birth to Baby Sullivan. One of the drugs they want to administer is not safe to inject during pregnancy, so there will be an additional 4 cycles of chemo soon after she delivers. The additional drug is called Taxol (Paclitaxel). We thought that Sara would be able to breastfeed, but after the discussions today, that is not going to be an option. Once the last dose of chemo is done, the radiation will begin. Ugh!

Sara also had an electrocardiogram today. It was amazing to watch her heart in action. We got the see the different chambers of the heart and watch her heart valves open and close. They got a baseline measurement and will check her heart again after the chemo.

Our final appointment today was spent in the Complicated OB clinic. Despite the delay in being seen, we are happy to be under the direct care the Chief of OB/GYN. He was awesome and we are happy to have such an experienced doctor taking care of Sara and Baby.

In the midst of all these appointments, we are still trying to find a home. We have made an offer and are going back and forth with the seller about the price. We're playing hard-ball and are going to walk away if she does not meet our price. We have bought one car (an '03 Honda Pilot) and will pick it up in Houston next week.

Our new home?!?

As we realized that this "road to recovery" is going to be longer than expected...We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed: preplexed, but not in despair. --2 Corinthians 4:8

Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly, we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. --2 Corinthians 4:16-17

Keep praying! Thanks.

Friday, May 1, 2009

The latest...

We spent the morning at the hospital discussing treatment options with the oncologist. Sara is going to receive 4 doses of chemotherapy, spaced every 3 weeks, beginning in mid-May. This is less than we were expecting and is good news. The doctor today reconfirmed that the outcome of this chemo was going to be a CURE for Sara.

The doctors want Sara to get a multitude of tests prior to beginning chemo. She is going to get a chest X-ray, a liver ultrasound, an echocardiogram, some blood tests, and a port-a-cath installed during the next few weeks.

The chest X-ray and liver ultrasound are to test for any metastasis (spreading) of cancer cells. THERE IS NO SPECULATION THAT THE CANCER HAS SPREAD, BUT WE WOULD RATHER BE SAFE THAN SORRY! The echocardiogram is to get a baseline test of the heart prior to chemo. One of the side effects of the Adriamycin (chemo drug) is cardiotoxicity, or damage to the heart muscle. Basically, the heart won't be able to pump blood as efficiently as before.

I'm not sure what the blood tests are looking for specifically, but some "counts" would be higher if the cancer had spread to other organs.

The port-a-cath is going to be inserted under the skin on her upper right chest.


Port-a-cath X-ray

The port-a-cath will simplify the chemo administration and we won't have to worry about the chemo drugs "leaking" into her arm if an IV was not inserted correctly. Bad stuff happens when chemo drugs are not administerd correctly, so we are all for the port. I won't gross you out by showing a video, but if you are interested click on to see a port-a-cath in action.

Please pray for continued health of the baby and that Sara's heart will not be damaged during chemo. Also, we are looking for a house and 2 cars, so pray for smart decisions.

Your prayers are much appreciated.